Last week we had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Teresa Hackett, Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager at Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) that works with libraries to enable access to knowledge in developing and transition economy countries in Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. The Copyright and Libraries programme aims to build capacity of librarians in copyright issues, develop useful resources, and advocate for national and international copyright law reform.
We asked the following questions:
- What are the three biggest problems for international copyright that you hope WIPO’s work can address?
- Is the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) making progress in solving those problems?
- What hurdles do you see in the SCCR’s work toward solving those problems?
The three biggest problems identified by Ms. Hackett were inequalities between nations on the right to legally access and use information for education, research, and personal developments; barriers to cross-border access and use of information; and the replacement of copyright law with licenses for electronic resources. She stated that the SCCR is making progress addressing these problems, albeit quite slowly, which is often the case in international law. Currently the focus is on the important issue of agreeing on a workplan for the next biennium to set out a roadmap for the topics. As far as hurdles go, she indicated that there is some contention between developing and developed countries as to what the solution should be; while developing countries want a solution that’s international and binding, like an international treaty, for example, developed countries do not see a need for an international solution.
See below for a transcript of the interview.
What are the three biggest problems for international copyright that you hope WIPOs work can address?
First, the biggest problem is inequalities between nations on the right to legally access and use information for education, research, personal developments, and so on, in particular for digital information. So, it’s inequalities—a lack of equality between nations on the copyright laws of nations. There’s a big divergence around the world in copyright laws as to what libraries are and are not allowed to do for their activities.
The second problem is that there are barriers to cross-border access and use of information. That’s due to the territorial nature of copyright. As you know, the Internet is global, and information needs don’t stop at the border. But copyright laws often prevent libraries from sharing or providing information services across borders. In fact, because that’s an international problem, only an international organization like WIPO has the scope and the mandate to properly address it.
The third problem is that copyright law is being, to a large degree, supplanted or replaced by licenses for electronic resources. These licenses often take away user rights that are set out in the copyright law. We view that as kind of undermining copyright laws, so we would like to see some way to protect the limitations and exceptions that are set out in copyright law in the licenses so that in the future copyright law still has a very strong place in how we access and use information.
Would you say that the SCCR is making progress in solving these problems?
I would say yes overall. The Committee adopted a list of eleven topics for discussion which were debated over two years in the Committee. So, we had a list of eleven topics related to library and archive activities, such as preservation, right of reproduction, legal deposit, lending, parallel importation, cross-border uses, orphan works, TPMss, contracts, liability, and translation as well.
The resulting document was known as the ‘Chair’s chart’. Then the Chair proposed to reduce the eleven topics to nine and in fact, he also took out another two sub-topics. A suggested approach was made on seven topics, with further discussion needed on two topics (contracts and translation).
So, that phase of the work has been completed, and under the guidance of a new Committee Chair, the Committee is discussing a workplan for the next biennium, so for 2018 to 2019 when we hope we will be able to make further progress on the topics and to look at what the possible solutions might be.
So, we are making progress, but the progress is quite slow, as is the case in international law making. But I believe progress is being made.
You already said that one of the biggest hurdles would be the speed in which the changes would occur. Aside from that, what other hurdles do you see in the SCCRs work moving forward to address these issues?
Well I think it’s fair to say that all member states support the work of libraries, understand the value of libraries, and how libraries contribute to providing access to information and knowledge. Libraries contribute, for example, by preserving the memory of the world, providing access to our cultural and linguistic heritage, and supporting learning, education and research.
The problem is finding an agreement on a solution to the problems that the library and the archive community are presenting to the Committee and the member states. You could say that there is a split between industrialized countries and developing countries. Developing countries want a solution that’s binding and effective—likely along the lines of an international treaty or other binding international instrument—whereas the industrialized countries don’t see the need for an international solution at all. They believe that all the problems can be resolved at a national level and they only want to discuss best practices and national experiences. So, we have a difference of opinion and to some extent, an impasse as to what the solution should be.
Therefore, the biggest hurdle is really lack of political support from industrialized countries even though some of those same countries are themselves going through copyright reform processes. We hope that maybe when they have completed their own copyright reforms, they might be more ready to engage in discussions on what the solutions might be at the international level, not just at their own national level or regional level, as in the case of the European Union.